Today was our last day in Paris. We set out for Place d’Aligre after breakfast. This is a combination of food and flea markets in the 12th. The particularly nice thing about it is that it is open on weekdays, not just weekends like the others. And, it’s not out as far so the neighborhood was a bit more pleasant. Shana found some nice stuff for her antique business, and she has become a good bargainer en Francais. I enjoyed being her assistant and occasional interpreter (though I mean that very loosely). It was a nice marche aux puces to end on.
We hopped on a couple of metro lines to Musee d’Orsay and had a delightful time. We share a similar level of knowledge of and appreciation for art, so we are a good pair in the museums. We spent a couple of hours before departing for a stroll down the Seine. We checked out the booksellers in their dark green stalls. Then we found a great Italian restaurant tucked down a small, quiet side street among the hustle and bustle of the city. For 15,90€ each, we had a three course delicious lunch. We have done fairly well with our food prices and are glad of that for sure…calories are another story.
Okay…I have written two additional paragraphs two times, but Word Press keeps deleting them when I hit save! So, I am just going to try to add photos and you can figure out what else we did. Au revoir!
Most know that Paris is full of museums. Today we took in two and had quite different experiences. We took the metro to Place de la Concorde and saw the obelisk. Then we crossed the street to Musee de l’Orangerie, situated in Jardin des Tuileries. It was absolutely delightful, both in content and scale. The most famous work here is Monet’s Nympheas or water lilies. This is a series of many large panels housed in two oval rooms in l’Orangerie. It was spectacular. There is another floor of paintings to view, many from the impressionist era. Also quite nice. Then we were done and departed, after buying a few mementos at the cute little shop.
We strolled through the garden to the Louvre. We cut the queue with our Paris Pass (awesome) and made our plan. We went to see La Jaconde (the Mona Lisa) along with just about everyone else. I think it was as crowded as when we were here in August! We visited Venus de Milo with another crowd. We saw many things – paintings and statues mostly – along the way. Next we found our way to Napoleon III’s apartment, and it felt like we were at Versailles. Such over the top opulence! It was sort of cool to see and much less crowded. We found the Lacemaker next, by Dutch artist Vermeer, which was unexpectedly small. Finally, we descended to view the medieval Louvre before exiting. The whole thing was overwhelming, just like the other times I’ve visited. I’m not quite sure how to experience it any other way, so maybe next time I’m in Paris, I’ll skip it all together. I will definitely return to l’Orangerie.
We walked toward Les Halles, stopping for lunch along the way. Next we toured Saint Eustache, a cathedral built in the 16th century that houses the largest pipe organ in Paris. Young Louis XIV received communion here and Mozart’s mother’s funeral was here, among many other things. We had a 3:00 booking at O Chateau for a wine tasting (part of our Paris Pass), so that was next. It was good in terms of the wine, but a bit too much shtick from the somelier. The Pompidou was an easy walk from this point, so we went there next to enjoy it from the outside only. We were sort of museumed out by now. The metro took us home, and we will go find crepes for dinner in a bit.
One more full day here tomorrow. We have a few things left to do, including another flea market, a boat ride on the Seine, and the best museum: Musee d’Orsay. Should be fun!
We slept well, enjoyed breakfast at the hotel (great coffee), and headed to Île de la Cité. We had a preview of the flower and bird market (Reed’s nightmare) before heading to Notre Dame. We walked around the massive cathedral before going inside. We then entered, checked out the outer perimeter, and settled in for an hour long service, a Gregorian mass, which was special for Lent. We thoroughly enjoyed worshipping in this way.
Next we went to Sainte Chapelle…if you’ve been there, you know what an amazing experience we were in for. Thankfully, the rose window that was behind the scaffolding when we visited in August was visible, though still a bit obscured. We returned to the flower and bird market after soaking in the majesty of the colored glass. Shana got some perfume, I got some soap, and we really enjoyed the beautiful flowers and chirping birds.
We traveled to the Vanves Marche aux Puces (flea market) in the 14th arrondissement. We enjoyed browsing the many stalls of brocantes. I got a napkin and Shana got a lot of handkerchiefs for a good price. It was fun to take in a market that was a bit more manageable in size than Clignancourt. 🙂
We were quite cold and hungry by this point, so we went to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. We ate at Les Deux Magots, which I had wanted to do. I think I sat at Jean-Paul Sartre’s table as we enjoyed our quiche and coffee. And, even more, Ric Ocasek, Paulina Poritzkova, and their son sat right next to us! We respected their privacy and left them alone, but it was pretty cool nonetheless. If you don’t know who these people are, search up The Cars or 1980s models. 🙂
We sojourned on to Saint Sulpice, another pretty cathedral. We went for the Lenten organ recital, which was okay though too much talking. Still, I was happy to visit as I had never been. Next we took the metro to the Pantheon to tour the crypts…we saw Paulina and her son again, though no Ric is time. We even had time to visit Arc de Triomphe before heading back to the hotel! We lucked out with our timing and saw the eternal flame ceremony, complete with bugle and snare drum.
We took provisions (baguette, cheese, wine) to our room to enjoy for dinner. We are content with everything we did and saw today and should sleep well tonight!
We had a nice train ride from Angers to Paris and made our way to the hotel by metro. It is a lovely hotel (Cadran) in the seventh, just off Rue Cler. We got some lunch after checking in, and then we set out to explore. We found the huge flea market, Clignancourt, in the 20th and browsed for awhile. Then we went to Monmartre and visited Sacre Coeur. We still have lots to see but are already having fun!
A quick update while we wait to depart Paris…at least for now. 😉
We had our last breakfast on Rue Cler; croissants, coffees, and a hot chocolate for Abbie. Then we walked the very short distance to L’Hôtel national des Invalides where there is an Army Museum and Napoleon’s mighty tomb. It was another spectacular campus of buildings, and the kids seemed quite interested in the war history, especially that of WWI & WWII.
We strolled back to Rue Cler for lunch at the Chinese restaurant from yesterday. Then we went next door for delicious gelato and coffee. We should have time to grab one last crepe before taking the Metro to the bus to the airport. Then we should land in Dublin around 11:15pm, only to depart about 12 hours later.
We have been talking with the kids today about all we’ve done and what they’ve enjoyed the most. Abbie’s list of favorite destinations from first to last goes France, Ireland, Scotland, and England. Jackson’s and mine goes France, Ireland, England, and Scotland. Reed’s is Ireland, France, Scotland, and England. The kids both loved the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Blarney Castle, and Alnwick Castle. I need more time to reflect on all we’ve done before I can create my list. I think we have lots to keep talking about and lessons to learn from this time away together. It has been a gift!
Today we checked off a few more items from our priority list for what to see during our visit to Paris. We enjoyed café au lait ($8 each!) and croissants around the corner from our lovely hotel and then set out for the Metro. We went to Île de la Cité to experience La cathédrale Notre-Dame, or the spectacular and enormous Notre Dame Cathedral. We considered going up the bell towers, but the line was very, very long, probably a 90+ minute wait (& no queue jumping privileges with our Paris Pass). We instead waited in a super long, but fast moving, line to go into the sanctuary. A service was in session, so we sat for a bit to take it in. Then we traveled around the outside hallways, admiring the architecture, stained glass, and monuments along the way. It truly is a marvelous structure – we learned that it took 182 years to complete!
After we viewed the inside, we walked along the Seine to view it from the outside. The gardens are beautiful, the flying buttresses are incredible, and the ornate detailing is phenomenal. I particularly like the “green guys” (i.e., the Apostles) climbing up the spire. In preparation for our visit, Abbie has been watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame repeatedly, and we did so together two nights ago in our hotel. We kept our eyes open for Quasimodo and Esmerelda! 🙂
Next we walked over to Sainte-Chapelle, Reed’s and my favorite cathedral that we’ve seen…like anywhere on the planet. It was built in the 13th century in a medieval gothic style, and it contains one of the most extensive collections of 13th c. stained glass anywhere in the world. We again didn’t have the line cutting privilege with our Paris Pass, but we met a nice woman and her 12-year-old daughter from Southern California while we waited. She approached us and asked about Abbie, as her daughter is also from China. It was fun to talk about our experiences of getting our precious daughters years ago.
Sainte-Chapelle isn’t large like Notre Dame, and you actually have to go upstairs to get to the main chapel, which is kind of cool. The windows that surround it are amazing in both color and story, going through both Old Testament and New Testament stories. There seem to be hardly any walls connecting the windows…you are surrounded by colored glass. Unfortunately, about 1/4 of the windows were behind construction walls undergoing an extensive restoration process where the glass is removed, cleaned, and reinstalled, with new lead where needed. And this included the huge rose window, which was masked by scaffolding covered by a partition with a grayscale image where the window would have been. 😦 The kids were a bit underwhelmed, especially after waiting in line for awhile, and I can’t say that I blame them. Perhaps they will return one day to see the whole thing in all it’s glory.
We descended back down into the Metro (to the very cool Cité station) and took the #1 line to the Charles de Gaulle stop. We ascended from beneath the city to the majestic Arc de Triomphe. It really is a spectacular view, right from the escalator out of the Metro. We were right on the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous streets in the world. We descended again to go through the tunnel under the huge rotary street that surrounds the monument. Up once again and we went straight for the queue – this time with cutting privileges. 🙂 We climbed the 284 stairs up one leg of the Arc to the top. This is one of the best views in all of Paris – the Eiffel Tower on one side, Sacre Coeur on another; the Grande Arche at La Defense on yet another. It was spectacular.
We descended the stairs down the other leg and then walked around the Arc. It really is hard to get it in a photo when you are right next to it – it is so HUGE, standing at 164 feet high, 148 feet wide, and 72 feet deep. It has ornate detailing on every surface and huge sculptures on its legs. It was commissioned to be built by Napoleon in 1806 – talk about a “Napoleon Complex!” Beneath the Arc is the tomb of the unknown solider from WWI, complete with a burning eternal flame and decorated with flowers. It really was an awe-inspiring experience, both for the kids at their first viewing and us at our subsequent viewing. One quick note, if you want a fabulous view of Paris from above, this is about the best place to go. You miss the long lines at the Eiffel Tower and the view, unlike Sacre Coeur, is unobstructed.
Back on the Metro to our neighborhood to find lunch. We returned to Rue Cler, this time enjoying Chinese food (including beverage), for only €7.5 each; a truly remarkable deal. However, there was a gelato shop next door that we indulged in and blew the budget (€3.6 each!). It was well worth it and perhaps even better than our Grafton Street gelato spot in Dublin. I guess we are quite a bit closer to Italy here. 🙂 What was really nice is you could choose as many flavors as you wanted, even in our small dishes. I went with caramel, chocolate, pistachio, and coffee, and they shape it like a rose when you get it in a cone as I did (check it out at amorino.com). Reed and I also got really good coffee; I think we will return tomorrow.
The boys went back to the hotel, and us girls did a tiny bit of souvenir shopping. Abbie wanted some Eiffel Tower earrings, and we had been searching for non-dangling ones (my rule). We were successful, and I even found a little glass pyramid for Jackson, reminiscent of the ones at the Louvre (with the Eiffel Tower etched inside).
Speaking of which, we returned to the Eiffel Tower tonight a bit before 10pm to view it sparkling. On the hour, from just after dusk until 2am, it twinkles for five minutes. Lots of people gather in Champ de Mars, the long park between Ecole Militaire and the Tower. It is a festive atmosphere with music, drinking, and laughter. We found a patch of grass and joined the party. Right on cue, it dazzled the crowd…one of my favorite things about Paris: how it dazzles me.
Backing up a bit, we went out for dinner at the place we scoped out last night. It didn’t go so well. the snails were not a hit (Jackson did at least try one; Abbie chickened out), the cheese pizza had a LOT of funky French cheese on it (even made me gag), and the bill was exorbitant. Oh well…I guess we are doing our part to help out the French economy.
Tomorrow we will pack up, explore the city a bit more (Hotel des Invalides & Napoleon’s Tomb), and then head to the little Beauvais airport to fly back to Dublin before returning home Wednesday (not sure when we’ll have a chance to update the blog). Even though I would love more time in Paris, I think we all are ready to go home. Thank you in advance for your prayers for “journey mercies”!
Cafe au Lait breakfast
Hotel de Ville
Mom and Abbie in the Notre Dame line
Dad and Jackson in the Notre Dame line
Taking in a service, Notre Dame Cathedral
Joan of Arc, Notre Dame Cathedral
Rose Window, Notre Dame Cathedral
Eucharist, Notre Dame Cathedral
We made it… and the kids enjoyed!
“The Green Guys” – The Apostles
Metro entrance on Île de la Cité
Abbie and Mom in Sainte Chapelle
The chapel’s most spectacular window…printed in grayscale 😦
Jackson’s reaction to the grayscale window
Metro stop under Île de la Cité
On the way to the Arc de triomphe
Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre from the Arc
La Défense from the Arc
Eiffel Tower from the Arc
Abbie spying away
Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc de triomphe